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Book Review: Writing on the Tablet of the Heart: Origins of Scripture and Literature

Writing on the Tablet of the Heart: Origins of Scripture and Literature by David M. Origins of Scripture and Literature 4. This book explores a new model for the production, revision, and reception of Biblical texts as Scripture.

The point was not incising and reading texts on parchment or papyrus. The point was to enculturate ancient Israelites - particularly Israelite elites - by training them to memorize and recite a wide range of traditional literature that was seen as the cultural bedorck of the people: Hardcover , pages. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Review of David M. Carr, Writing on the Tablet of the Heart

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Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. May 03, KA rated it it was amazing Shelves: I love this book and hope it's going to help revolutionize the way we talk about the scribal tradition, orality, text transmission, and canon formation. Mark Stone rated it really liked it Mar 03, Joshua Hutchens rated it liked it Jan 30, Mark rated it really liked it Feb 18, Carolena rated it really liked it Jul 31, James Prothero rated it really liked it Dec 02, Jared rated it really liked it Jan 28, Nick Kmoch rated it it was amazing Jan 06, Em rated it it was amazing Aug 19, Nick rated it it was amazing Feb 17, To understand fully the relationship between oral and written compositions, a look at education, especially its curriculum, is essential because, it is maintained, texts were used and produced mainly for the purpose of shaping the young minds.

Origins of Scripture and Literature

In the next five chapters in Part I, Carr studies early examples of textuality and education in ancient Near East. In ancient Mesopotamia, where the earliest and best-documented textual system is found, a complex way of writing dictated that education was limited to a select group p. These future intellectual elites proceeded from the rudiments of Sumerian language and values through memorizing and copying a group of texts to a broadening range of texts that required and enhanced autonomy and mastery.

In all stages, memorization plays a prominent role because written works were but the tip of a largely oral iceberg.

Writing on the Tablet of the Heart

When a scribe reached a high level of mastery of the tradition, he could then use this memorized compositional lexicon to create new works p. The Egyptian education also involved copying, memorization, and recitation of the core curriculum. Similarly, the written text was but an aid to memory and oral performance. In Egypt, however, textual storage and production was predominantly linked with temples. Although no advanced school texts were found in Greece, artistic depictions of education and textual use were widespread.


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  • From textual witnesses, however rare they were, and from images, Carr concludes that writing in ancient Greece was linked from an early point to the tradition of recitation of poetry, serving as a secondary support for readers who already knew the poetry well p. Its main curriculum was the great Greek poets of the past, especially Homer. The goal of education, in addition to intimate knowledge of poetic classics as well as certain ethical principles, was the induction of a student into an elite male culture.

    In this way, Greek education was different from the counterparts in Mesopotamia and Egypt. The point was to enculturate ancient Israelites - particularly Israelite elites - by training them to memorize and recite a wide range of traditional literature that was seen as the cultural bedorck of the people: He is the author of The Erotic Word: His arguments are compelling. The author has brought old insights into a comprehensive synthesis and given us new perspectives, or "handles," by which to focus our attention on the greater picture of writing, literacy, scribes, and literary texts in the ancient world.

    Biblical scholars will need to seriously consider this well laid out challenge to the generally accepted theories of documentary sources.

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    Its adept handling of the data implicit in comparative texts from ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece, together with those from Qumran, illuminates the emergence of the Bible and suggests a way to revitalize Scripture today. This impressive work contributes vitally to breaking down the distinction between literacy and orality which has often clouded discussions of cultural and administrative institutions in the ancient world, and reaches significant conclusions that will have an impact far beyond its core area of Biblical Studies.

    His cross-cultural analysis will stimulate new insights into areas which readers know well, while it also offers intriguing glimpses into new territory. Carr adroitly employs an impressively broad range of comparative and theoretical perspectives to argue for the centrality of an oral-written textual practice in the educational process of cultural formation and socialization in elite Israelite circles.